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Quinones v. Astrue

September 25, 2009

JOSE A. QUINONES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Alicia G. Rosenberg United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Jose A. Quinones ("Quinones") filed a Complaint on November 13, 2008. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties filed Consents to proceed before Magistrate Judge Rosenberg on December 29, 2008 and February 24, 2009. (Dkt. Nos. 8-9.) The parties filed a Joint Stipulation ("JS") on June 25, 2009, that addressed the disputed issues in the case. The Commissioner filed the certified administrative record ("AR"). The Court has taken the Joint Stipulation under submission without oral argument.

Having reviewed the entire file, the Court affirms the decision of the Commissioner.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On April 26, 2006, Quinones filed an application for supplemental security income benefits, alleging a disability onset date of January 1, 2000. AR 8. The application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. AR 68-69. On May 16, 2008, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") conducted a hearing at which Quinones, his fiancee, and a vocational expert testified. AR 17-63. On June 27, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying benefits. AR 5-16. Quinones filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision. AR 4. On September 5, 2008, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. AR 1-3. This lawsuit followed.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), this Court has authority to review the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. The decision will be disturbed only if it is not supported by substantial evidence or it is based upon the application of improper legal standards. Moncada v. Chater, 60 F.3d 521, 523 (9th Cir. 1995); Drouin v. Sullivan, 966 F.2d 1255, 1257 (9th Cir. 1992).

In this context, "substantial evidence" means "more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance -- it is such relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support the conclusion." Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523. When determining whether substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner's decision, the Court examines the administrative record as a whole, considering adverse as well as supporting evidence. Drouin, 966 F.2d at 1257. Where the evidence is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Court must defer to the decision of the Commissioner. Moncada, 60 F.3d at 523.

III. EVALUATION OF DISABILITY

A. Disability

"A person qualifies as disabled, and thereby eligible for such benefits, only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy." Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 21-22, 124 S.Ct. 376, 157 L.Ed. 2d 333 (2003) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

B. The ALJ's Findings

Following the five step sequential evaluation process for determining disability, Lounsburry v. Barnhart, 468 F.3d 1111, 1114 (9th Cir. 2006), the ALJ found that Quinones has the following medically determinable impairments that, in combination, are severe: hypertension; diabetes mellitus 2, uncontrolled; obesity; gastroesophageal reflux disease; atypical chest pain; low back pain with degenerative disk disease of the lumbosacral spine; osteoarthritis of bilateral knees; history of gout; and anxiety disorder not otherwise specified. AR 10. Quinones had the residual functional capacity to perform medium work and "is able to lift and/or carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently, ...


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